To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
Walking along Main Street in my hometown of New Paltz, I found the event I was looking for—the Occupy Wall Street gathering between Chase Bank and Starbucks. There was a crowd of about 80 people gathered, some carrying signs. A man sat on top of a USPS mailbox with a guitar, and someone in the center of the group was leading a chant through the microphone, “We are the 99 percent!”
I was holding my two sons’ hands and we stayed on the periphery. “What are all these people doing here?”, the five-year-old asked. “They’re upset because they got robbed by the banks,” I told him. The boy thought for a minute. “Did the banks rob us?” he asked. “Yes,” I responded, “they robbed the whole earth.”
One placard simply said “10% of us own 90% of the wealth. How can this be correct?” This proportion seemed familiar. Where had I heard it before? And then I realized—it is about the proportion of the brain’s capacity we are said to make use of in our daily lives. Wow, I thought, this is a truly a microcosm. The as above, so below formula is playing out yet again.
Just as one-tenth of the population controls nine-tenths of the world’s resources, so too does a tiny proportion of our intelligence decide the fate of our whole being. The Occupation has (at the time of this writing) spread to over 100 cities in the US and over 1,500 cities globally—there’s even an Occupy Poughkeepsie!—and it also seems on track to take root closest to home.
Here’s the latest: Occupy Yourself!
The notion that the world is a mirror of our inner lives is not new. The old language was religious: “Man is made in the image of God” (I think it is safe to translate the word God as “the whole world”). In Arthur Koestler’s more modern holoarchic model, there are holons, each of which is the part which in itself is also a whole, a complete world within larger worlds. A human being is such a world unto herself.
In this direction, the Occupy Wall Street movement is on a firm footing as a unique holon, made up of its constituent holons. They are a leaderless organization guided by a method of consensus-based guidance called “people’s assembly” that facilitates collective decision making. In other words, they are creating a small society that exemplifies a truly representative model of human interaction. It is a model that addresses the needs and insights 100 percent of its participants; a world based on principles that address the whole, not just a tiny part.
Of course, in reality it is not a situation of 1 percent versus 99 percent. There is only 100 percent, and any attempt to evolve the totality needs to be premised on the understanding that no one is expendable. When we look at the corporate operators that seem motivated by the basest, most self-serving impulses, we have to see that, though they endeavor to make the earth a wasteland, and most of humanity slaves, they are themselves slaves of the same system.
Self-service is actually the highest impulse there is. But its loftiness depends on the scope of the sense of the meaning of self. When we see self limited to the consciousness contained within the notion of “me”, the setup is inevitably destructive to the rest of myself, which we see as other. But when we understand that humanity, life on earth, and even the body and consciousness of the planet itself are all parts of a larger whole, then self-service is inevitably useful to all.
In this direction, John Donne’s now clichéd poem is worth reading again, in its entirety:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
We come back to the realization that integrating the neglected parts of ourselves is a means of integrating the world. We are the microcosm, and even a tiny transformation in our particular clod has a direct effect on the main of humanity.
Can we do what the one percent refuses to do? Can we be dangerously generous? Can we put others’ wellbeing before personal gain? Can we put the quality of the process first, and trust the result will be the better for it?
Can we be compassionate, even to our enemies? Can we occupy ourselves?
In our heart of hearts we know we can.